Reading and Leeds met at the Madejski Stadium in the 39th game of the Championship. Leeds were looking to continue their fine run of performances having won their last four games out of five and are currently top of the league looking to secure the championship title and gain promotion back into the Premier League for the first time since the 2003/04 season. On the other hand, Reading has won their last two games but are struggling in the league sitting in 19th place. Reading is usually a stronger side at home than playing away, but in this tactical analysis, I will show how Leeds beat the former top-flight team and how they are very much capable of winning the Championship this year.
Jose Gomes lined up the home side in the 4-2-3-1 formation with captain Liam Moore playing alongside Miazga in central defence with Baker and East sitting in midfield. Modou Barrow and Meite played on the wings with Swift playing in between them as the number 10 and Danny Loader lead the line up top.
Marcelo Bielsa lined his men up in the 4-1-4-1 formation which turned into a 4-5-1 on the counter-attack, telling us that his side was not going to beat around the bush and continue playing there great attacking football as of late. Striker Patrick Bamford leads the line in front of Klich and Roberts in central midfield. In-form Pablo Hernandez played on the wing with Harrison on the opposite side while Phillips played in defensive midfield to protect partnership Pontus Jansson and Liam Cooper.
How both teams played in possession
As Reading pressed high and well in the opening minutes of the game, the Leeds midfield managed to outplay the opposition and get out of dangerous situations or losing possession. Reading tried to close-down quickly and effectively to win back possession for the team and keep Leeds away from going on one of their dangerous counter-attacks. This strategy didn’t seem to work against Leeds’s creative midfield as they formed a triangle to get out of dangerous situations and maintain possession. This triangle shape allowed Leeds to have many options to pass to as Reading committed to the ball and the receiver in possession could turn out into open space. This occurred many times throughout the game often leading for them to create chances on goal.
Reading however used the same sort of triangle shape to create chances in the final third. The triangle, when played effectively, can create more space and open up goalscoring opportunities. Below we see Reading using the same shape to get out of the tight space and get a shot on goal, but it wasn’t to be for the home side as they failed to hit the net this time around.
All about the counter-attacks!
Most of Leeds’s goals came from a counter-attack on the right side of midfield. With Spanish winger Pablo Hernandez receiving the ball in the final third from creative passing in central midfield, the Spaniard managed to bag himself two goals on the night with two spectacular strikes. Although the Reading defence couldn’t do anything about Hernandez’s goals, they should have been more aware of the space in the right-hand side of the pitch as most of Leeds’s chances came from that position right from the start. Reading could not cope with the counter-attacking football that Leeds were playing because the midfield was linking up well by dragging Readings midfielders in and then playing one-two’s to play around them: Almost like the tikka-taka style. This caught reading off guard leaving the right flank unmarked. Throughout the game Leeds right-back, Luke Ayling bombed forward and made overlapping runs to get into position for a cross, again coming from the right-hand side leading to another shot on goal on top of the 13 total shots in the game.
Although Leeds completed the game with 62% possession as opposed to Readings 38%, The home side still managed to create chances with nine shots and five on target but unfortunately, they couldn’t hit the back of the net this time around.
The current leaders in the league were very well organised at the back and remained solid throughout the game. They kept a good shape and held the formation very well which shows Bielsa is building the foundations of a potential future premier league side.
As shown in the image above, the Leeds defence remained well structured and kept a good a line horizontally, while the midfielders marked their men in the middle of the park to block any passing lanes and the wingers dropped back to put pressure on the player with the ball. This made it difficult for Reading to break down and create chances on goal because the player on the ball is being pressured while the options in the middle were already marked and because of Leeds’s organized back line, made it difficult for Readings forwards to get in behind.
Despite Reading going 3-0 down in the first half and Leeds’s strong defensive structure, the Royals explored the width at some points in the game and managed to create five shots on target. With wingers Barrow and Meite getting forward on the flanks, they found themselves in space and managed to get into good positions to score or set up a goal, but the final ball was poor from the home side and the Leeds defence stood tall in many situations and were always in the way, intercepting or clearing the ball away from danger.
A hard defeat for Reading to take as the visitors put in a strong attacking display at the Madejski Stadium. Despite some nice link up spells down the wing and creating nine attempts on goal, they just weren’t clinical enough on the day. Jose Gomes’ men will be looking to stay motivated going into the next game away vs Stoke as they try to climb further away from the relegation zone currently only two points from falling into it, too close for comfort for most Reading supporters! Leeds, on the other hand, continue their impressive run in the league and are currently sitting at the top of the table with Norwich closely behind with a game in hand. Bielsa will no doubt be looking to keep his team playing the way they have been consistently in their hopes to secure the championship title and return back to the top tier of English football.